Monday, January 3, 2011

Haiti Summer 2010


Artist enjoying an unconventional art class with HEART
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Port au Prince training team with a group mural

Thanks to Gloria Simoneaux - www.harambeearts.org I worked for Save the Children on an art therapy project in Haiti, called HEART, healing and education through art.
My first trip was in April 2010, when things were starting to settle down and more structure for programs like this one could be put in place. I learned that in the large NGO world there is a ‘model’ of implementing programs in which a ‘trainer’ trains another group of ‘trainers’ and they in turn train others, eventually there are many trained people who can implement the program to a greater portion of the targeted population. In this case the children.
Working for Save the Children was a fascinating experience in itself, I learned a lot from the inside about the structure and processes used in development, and of course, Gloria Simoneaux was an incredible teacher for my crash course in Art Therapy. I have also met many other amazing, talented creative people in the fields of development, therapy and art with whom I will continue to be life long friends.
Artist St Jean (a genius)working on a 'body map'
Mostly, I realized that I have been doing this work for a long time, I just wasn’t calling it therapy. Now I can say I have learned more specific techniques that will really help me in the growth of my work as an artist activist.

Performance Artist group CREA, came to pay us a visit and share some creative spirit.

I arrived in Port Au Prince, a large Carribbean capital city that reminded me a lot of many of the towns I have been to in Africa, but had a lot of the Carribbean flavor that I’m familiar with from my travels to Jamaica. I worked on developing a program specifically for the Haitian artists who were requested to participate in the project. Some of them were already employed with a group set up by the first lady of Haiti, called Plac Timon (which means children’s place in Kreol). This was a well funded program, and really well organized, cos they had TONS of cash, as it turns out there was a exhibition of this work at the Smithsonian, and Michelle Obama went to see one of their projects. Details about the earthquake in Haiti. http://www.nmafa.si.edu/exhibits/haiti/
I worked for a week in Port Au Prince, with a group of 12 artist, and my amazing translator and good friend Laurence Camille.I helped to expand upon and develop a training manual for the project, that includes exercises and games to carry out that demonstrate how to relieve some aspects of trauma that people were still dealing with.
I came to understand, however that the earthquake in Haiti was not the only cause of trauma, years of physical and mental abuse was common among my trainees.I am so honored and grateful for everything they shared with me and taught me.
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My second trip was to Jacmel, a town in the south of Haiti that is known for its art.

 Laurence, Dominique and I in house of Moro in Jacmel
I trained two groups of artists here and continued to develop important aspects of the program such as evaluation, and opportunities for participants to practice what they had learned.

Typical street scene in downtown Jacmel.
It was at this time that I met two art therapist working from Denmark branch of Save the Children, they had some really great insights that they shared from their professional experience, and I hope to work with them both again in the future.
Local form of transportation in Haiti. The Tap Tap
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My third trip was so wonderful because it included children. We set off from Jacmel to a town in the mountains called Lavoute.
Being trees outside in the beautiful surrounding country
Gaston, in forground was a little rascal.....
We spent a week running a practice program for the trainees with the children. It was so interesting to be an observer, and to be monitoring someone else doing the work, again, it helped me to develop my own practice in work with children.
When we were leaving the children kept asking, ‘When are you coming back?’
my amazing team of teachers in lavoute.



Hopefully Save the Children will go back to Lavoute.
I was not under contract to return. My previous commitments made it impossible, but Gloria is going to continue what we have started, which I’m really happy to hear.
My involvement with the HEART program made a huge impact on my work and I’m excited to move forward again with my next phase of development with ‘Global Art Expeditions’.